Friday, March 31, 2006

Condi for prez?

Does anyone still have any doubts that Condoleeza Rice is going to make a bid for the presidency in '08? I noted in a previous post that the media coverage of her has changed in recent months in all of the ways that indicated she was in grooming mode. Just about the only thing she had left to do was to was what every other contender has either already done - distance herself from President Bush. For the others in the race this was relatively easy - get huffy about the DP World port non-deal or foam at the mouth ineffectually about torture were both popular in recent months, but for Rice, who is the only one from Bush's inner circle likely to run, indeed the only one likely with a political future, this is more difficult.

There is a fine political line between admitting errors and admitting mistakes, and she is attempting to walk that line. Indeed, she admitted to possibly "thousands" of them. She did it in the only way open to her if she was to keep herself clean of the debacle that is the war - she drew the line between admitting "errors" in the conduct of the war in Iraq, but not allowing that the war itself was a mistake (link to CNN article). Balancing the patently obvious reality of the "errors" with the long-term, dare I use the word "optimistic"? view that the choice to go to war was strategically the correct thing to do.

Whether or not the historians of the future are going to smile on the Iraq invasion is an open question, but it really is the only way that she can both keep her political hopes alive and maintain a good working relationship with her boss and prayer buddy.

The sad, strange tale of Peggy Draper...

...continues to unspool before us. All has been quiet on the Halifax Regional School Board scene for the past few weeks, so you knew something had to turn up soon.

Today it appears that one-time Bedford-Fall River Board representative Peggy Draper has been arrested on "multiple charges of theft and fraud over $5,000", possibly related to complaints made against her by Joan Robillard, a former colleague, who, surprisingly has never served on the school board.

In case you haven't been keeping your score card up to date, Ms. Draper was punted from the board in February for missing too many meetings. Not only that, in an incident that appears endemic to this board, she also declared bankruptcy in 2002 and, against the rules, did not declare it to the Board. This resulted in a group of fellow board members, and apparently supporters, leaving the meeting, causing the second monthly meeting in a row to be cancelled for lack of quorum. The previous meeting adjourned when member Doug Sparks refused to take his seat in the new seating arrangement.

As of now, there has been no announcement from the HRM police regarding the case.

Good read...

Another Tory on the media...

More idiocy from the craven Right

As Catnip highlighted yesterday, the Right in the US did not jump for joy this week as Jill Carrol was released from months of imprisonment in Bagdhad. I guess the fact that she didn't come out with stories of the horror of her treatment meant that she was actually in on it in their peevish little minds. Well, on Imus in the Morning yesterday they were even more craven - joking about her having sex with her captors and making racist comments like "carrying Habib's baby".

And what would be a summary of Right-wing idiocy without a mention of Adam Daifallah. (Hi Adam, I know you're googling your name right now!) This week he took a dig at a CBC op/ed piece on the sometimes hostile coverage of the rescue of the Christian Peacemakers in the Canadian media. He singles out this as a target for his petulance:
"Thank you, Mr. Loney," I would have said. "Thank you for being part of the Canadian idea that this world will become a better place only if each of us does our bit in the best way we can. And you certainly did that. Welcome home."

What his problem with this attitude is, I'm not sure because he doesn't say. There must be some sort of righty code here that I'm not picking up on. The quote is a bit fluffy and beauty-pageantish, but what is inherently wrong with doing our bit? The nearest I can tell is that his problem is that the CPT guys weren't part of an army and they didn't believe that the West has the right to impose its version of order on the rest of the world. Ah, problematic, yes.

He explains that this quote identifies the CBC bias, which I would agree that it probably does, but then goes on to say it shows "why the CBC will never admit that it has one". How he gleans this, I'm not sure, it must be in the righty code again, but I ask this question in response: what news agency actually admits to its own bias? I mean, seriously, even Fox News claims to be "Fair and Balanced"! So what if the CBC doesn't admit to its bias? If it leans to the left, it just balances CTV and Global, which lean a bit to the right - no big deal; it's not like the world of the media is one organization.

Adam also wants to tell us what he thinks about the CPT issues, but he doesn't want to write anything that will come back to haunt him in his future political career, so instead of calling the CPT weak cowards and fools himself, he points with approval to a nasty piece of work by Peter Worthington, who "said it all perfectly" in a piece called "Peacemakers are misguided ingrates".

The bias in that piece goes without comment in the Daifallah post.

Here is my suggestion for the right-wing loudmouths who have been running off the rails the past two weeks about first the CPT and now Jill Carrol. Most of you seem to claim to be Christian, so at least you have a passing knowledge of the same book that the CPT, and I presume Jill Carrol (of the Christian Science Monitor) reads. If you look inside that book, you'll probably be able to figure out why they went over there and have a better understanding of what they were doing. And then, maybe, just maybe, you'll be quiet for a little while.

If, after doing that little bit of research you find that you still disagree with them, fine. You can then step up and join the military and offer up your solution to the problem with maybe the same amount of courage that they showed. Until then, you have no right to comment negatively on their actions.

As for you, Adam, you don't even have the little bit of courage to call them "misguided, arrogant and foolish" yourself - you have to do it second-hand through a link. You are indeed the most craven of all.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Catholic bishop displays uncanny grasp of reality...

I think that I will never understand the hangup that my former church has about sex, but the Catholic stance on condoms is tantamount to a crime against humanity in the age of AIDS.

Giles Cote, a Canadian bishop working with AIDS victims in Papua New Guinea has called for the government to distribute condoms to the populace. He says he is not "in conflict with the church as papal teaching also includes the law: 'You should not kill.'"

Thank you thank you thank you thank you.

Crank up the Machine that goes 'Ping!'

Yet another tall tale from the land of health care. Seriously, there are more than a few logical flaws with this plan.

First of all, it is nearly impossible to settle on any coherent set of 'clinically acceptable waiting times' that can operate universally across the country. It's hard to get a buch of doctors to agree on what to have for lunch, let alone what is the appropriate waiting time for hip or knee surgery, plus, the systems across the country are different. Some are more efficient, some less. Some have more money, others less. The structural aspects of the system are nearly as important as the functional ones. Until we all have identical systems, it's not going to work too well.

Closer to the 'clinical' part of the acceptable waiting times, a diagnosis that determines that, for example, a hip replacement is necessary can have varying levels of severity. You may need it immediately, you may be able to wait a few months while the people worse off than you go first, which is appropriate.

(People who get on the news because they have been waiting for an operation without telling us, contextually, what their situation is relative to the person ahead of them in the queue should be tossed down to the bottom of the list: "Evening News my ass!, Backa the line, Gramma!" Punt!)
(Once again, I digress...)

This is where the decision-making process of arriving at standardized wait times gets complicated: some physicians advocate a purely medical approach, pain/less pain/little pain. You are able to walk, or you are not.
But, some forward-looking and humanistic physicians advocate taking the person's social situation into account. Ok, your hip needs replacing, but your level of deterioration indicates you can wait...except that you are the sole breadwinner in your household, which would make your case more urgent.
See what I mean? Not straightforward by a long shot. Who's right? I'm not knowledgeable enough to say, but I have to say any health system that is able to look after the social and emotional needs of its users is ok by me.

Another thing: Clement insists that the provinces support the idea? Utter, utter crap. When I was in that neck of the woods, ANY kind of care guarantee was anathema, for exactly the reason mentioned: Sweden tried it, and failed. Any social program attempted by Scandinavians that fails should automatically be discarded, stricken from the record, banished, burned and peed on. They are, as many of you will know, the world leaders when it comes to social welfare programs of any kind. If they couldn't do it, nobody can.
The provinces are NOT on board with this, and I'm not just talking about the usual dissenters. Mark my words, it will be New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. or Newfoundland & Labrador that call a halt to this whole idea.
Or, just to fuck with everyone, Saskatchewan. Imagine my surprise to find out they actually have a government, since they haven't made a measurable contribution in years (except for 'Corner Gas').

It is unrealistic, and they know it - they expect not to have to fulfil this promise, since they expect the election to happen before anyone calls them on it. They can paint as rosy a picture with as uncertain a timeline as they like, 'cause it ain't gonna happen.

I think Mr. C. may be testing the medical marajuana.

We get our information from responsible places - like the 700 Club!

Dan has in the past posted the odd, truly numbing post from the ultra-right for a laugh. Now it's my turn (thanks to the fine people at Smirking Chimp).

Liberal media Bush haters
Somehow, the general media (liberal) hasn't figured out yet that when we voted President George Bush in for a second term, we voted out the general media. We get our information from Christian talk shows or "The 700 Club," who are ultimately responsible to God.


Recently, Georges Sada, Saddam's top military advisor, was on "The 700 Club" and stated that Saddam did have WMDs and they were all moved to Damascus, Syria, in 2002, including the labs to set them up. I have found none of the liberal media picking this up because they basically are Bush haters.


Therefore, the reading of the liberal media has fallen to probably the lowest percentage ever.

I'm at a loss as to where to begin - there's a little bit of everything here. There is the requisite attack on the "liberal media", but this time with a twist - it got "voted out" when they elected Bush. Because, well, he doesn't read the papers, right? Stephen Harper has been taking notes, I think - he seems to believe that the media got voted out when a minority of Canadians voted for him, too.

And there's even some moral fulmination about the mythical WMD's to help the Christian Right feel justified in their hankering for Arab blood. So long as there is a haystack left to look under they can still play the potential victim card.

And that last statement, well I say that it's pretty safe to say that we can generalize it a little bit further and say that reading has gone by the wayside almost altogether.

Seals decapitated by moving ice


Decapitated seal carcasses that washed up on the shore of eastern Cape Breton were likely killed by moving pans of ice, according to local DFO officials.

No word yet if Bridgitte Bardot or Paul McCartney and wife have begun simply boycotting ice or if their boycot will extend to all water as well.

A purely technical HTML request

As you can see, blevkog has taken on a new look, as I've been messing and fussing around with blog templates. Alas, when it comes to HTML I don't know my ass from my elbow and I can't figure out how to get rid of the "BSUID=1; ..." stuff that appears in the comment Name and Website fields.

If anyone has any suggestions, I'd appreciate it.

Media Distortion? Since When?

An interesting note from the International Herald Tribune, about the media coverage of the riots in France. By the tone and content of the news reports, one could assume that another Reign of Terror was just around the corner.

This is just another demonstration of something that continually irks me. Not that the media distorts reports to increase the level of violence and sensationalism, that's a given. It's that a lot of people (I hesitate to implicate the majority, but I'm probably being naive) accept this fiction uncritically. They have no idea, and no concern, that the goal of the news gathering organizations is not to share information with us out of concern for our welfare and a desire to educate us. No, they exist to make money. And how do they do that?

They do what the entertainment programming used to do: titillate, excite and play to our baser impulses, whether it's a desire to see scenes of violence and carnage, excite us with stories about the newest toy we'll all want in a few months,or attempt to mollify us, to make us feel good for a few seconds as we see some sweet story about a dolphin who performed open-heart surgery on a 3-year-old orphan while she was trapped under a car after she fell down a well. As George Carlin once said:" I don't care if the pandas at the zoo are fucking, do you?"

It's all about grabbing attention, while they grab for our wallets. Information has been commodified, and therefore cheapened. The oral storytelling tradition has devolved into a drooling shockfest. And it starts early - is it a coincidence that the segments on Sesame Street (or its poorly-conceived cousin, Sesame Park) are short, and look very similar to commercials? And is it also a coincidence that news stories scratch the surface of the real seriousness of events so superficially that even the 'News' seems like commercials for depravity and victimhood?

All I ask is that people stop, and consider whether there might be another side to a story. Like the truth, for instance.

I'm sure I'll be ranting more on this topic soon.

PLUS, is a serial rapist/murderer/taxidermist hiding in your sock drawer? We'll find out later - on BLEVKOG.
Stay Tuned.

What part of the phrase "puppet government" does this man not understand?

Facing growing pressure from the Bush administration for him to step down, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of Iraq vigorously asserted his right to stay in office today and warned the Americans against undue interference in Iraq's political process.

Now, I don't know anything about al-Jaafari. I probably wouldn't like him if I did. But that does not change the fact that he has been chosen by the Iraqi Parliament to represent them. If Bush is actually interested in fomenting a stable government, one simple rule to follow would be this: Don't demand that a new PM be installed everytime he does something you disapprove of!

I don't for a second believe that this government will serve independantly from American interests. They are vassals to the king. Nonetheless, a pretense of non-interference is probably a good idea, George. You want the Iraqi people to think that their government is independant from your own, don't you? Don't you? Hmm...maybe you don't. After all, if the Iraqis are busy fighting amongst themselves (and they are), perhaps they'll devote less effort to fighting the occupiers?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Slate audits Bush's books

George's books don't look good, and not even the Saudis will be able to bail him out this time.

Not a red cent to Hamas...

Says Prime Minister Harper through his Meat-Puppet of Foreign Affairs, Peter Mackay. The linked CBC article goes on to itemize the three items that our money was earmarked for. They are:
  • $6.3 million between 2005 and 2008 for housing rehabilitation and policy development. Terrorist safe houses, we can only assume.
  • $400,000 to study helping Ramallah to refurbish and manage its industrial park. Everyone knows that "industrial park" is a euphimism for car bomb, and besides, that's barely enough to float a theme park in the middle of nowhere. They won't even miss it.
  • $600,000 so the Palestinian justice minister can meet justice ministers from Israel, Jordan and Egypt. Good on him, I say. What would these so-called "justice ministers" really be talking about, anyway?
I guess it hasn't actually occured to this government that one of the reasons Hamas won the election was that the previous governments offered no hope of getting people out of abject poverty or regaining their dignity as a nation.

This oughta help. Hey Steve/Pete, why not fine them or something while you're at it? Not giving them money isn't good enough for me - take some from them.

The bastards...

Heckuva Interview

Good clip from the 'Colbert Report' showing an interview with Michael Brown former Head of FEMA. Warning - it's on Salon.com, you may need to watch a commercial before viewing

Best quote:
You were our scapegoat - but the goat isn't supposed to wander back into town and start pointing fingers at people

Abramoff gets time...

It's a shame he's gonna go to one of those white collar places that I'd probably pay to vacation in rather than a place where some brute gets to teach him another meaning of the word "jack".

It's somehing, I suppose. Oh well.

The Democratic "Plan"

Hat tip to Liberal Catnip for finding this.

The Democrats are ready to release their "Real Security: The Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore Our Leadership in the World", or "How We Think We Can Still Rule The World With Military Might Alone Even As Our Economic Importance Fades".

This is another example of why the Republicans eat Democrats - it is a document with lots of bluster and little follow-through. Some of it makes sense, but a lot of it is campaign rhetoric that is probably unattainable given the size of the US debt and deficit. I have to wonder if they gave any thought to these as they wrote them down, or did they just accepth them based on whether or not they sounded good to their focus group.

I have summarized the talking points that are going to come out of this and provided a brief blevalysis which might or might not be utterly, disasterously wrong.

21st Century Military
- spend even more money on the military
- make sure the National Guard is "fully manned".

blevalysis - Where on earth will the money come from? I presume the latter means they are pulling out of Iraq, because that's the main reason the National Guard is suffering.

War on Terror
- Get Osama
- spend more money on Special Forces
- make nice with other countries
- set timetable to secure loose nuclear materials
- try to stop weapons development in Iran and North Korea

blevalysis - This is mostly commonsense stuff. Getting Osama is just part of the political patter, like making the document red, white, and blue - he's gone baby, get over it. Making nice with other countries is the real solution to the terrorist problem, and great strides can be made here. Clinton I believe was working on the loose nuclear materials before Bush deep-sixed everything with traces of Monica Lewinski's lipstick, and critical time has been lost, so reviving this should be the first order of business. NK and Iran? The horse is already out of the North Korean barn, so unless they're talking about assassinating Kim Jong-Il, I'm not sure what they intend. Iran is going to be interesting for all kinds of reasons, but who knows what state the relationship will be by the time the Dems get a sniff of power?

Homeland Security
- implement 9/11 Commission recomendations
- screen 100% of cargo coming into US
- prevent outsourcing of ports, airports, mass transit
- more money to emergency workers
- invest in public health infrastructure

blevalysis - This is where the big money is. Examine 100% of the cargo coming into all of the ports? How long would it take? How much will trade be affected? I'm sure the Necropublicans have batted this one around the table a few times and determined that 100% cargo inspection is impossible. More money to emergency workers and health is a no-brainer, but with still more money being promised to the military above and payments coming due on a $9 trillion debt, I've no idea where the jingly is coming from. Preventing the outsourcing of ports and whatnot is like catching Osama - not really going after the issue. Besides, if the US dollar takes a hit, lots of stuff otherwise sacrosanct is going on the market. If the Democrats want to hold onto these facilities for security purposes, take the responsibility for security seriously and put it in the hands of the US government. No way - that's socialism!

Iraq
- make Iraqi government take more of security load
- make Iraq not fall into civil war
- ask allies to kick in some help
- hold Bush administration accountable for pre-war faux pas

blevalysis - There's a lot of pie-in-the-sky here. Even if Oprah Winfrey became president, I don't think they're going to get anyone to kick troops or money to help them fix their disaster in Iraq. Making the Iraqi government more responsible is a good idea, but to whom are they going to be responsible? What happens if a pro-Iranian Shia government takes power in a national election? Are we still in favour of a united Iraq then? Ultimately, uniting Iraq might not be possible - would a Democratic administration be pragmatic enough to accept this? They might win some hurrahs in the press for empty rhetoric like "holding the administration accountable...", but if they ever got in power what would they really do about Bush's criminal reign? In the end it would amount to nothing more than pissing on the steps of the W presidential library.

Energy Independence
- eliminate oil imports from Mid-East and other unstable parts of world by 2020
- increase production of alternate fuels and promote R&D in alternative technologies.

blevalysis - Good ideas, all. Both the West and the Mid-East have been held hostage by Mid-East oil for long enough. Freeing us from it would remove our fingers from mucking about in places that could use less of us and cutting the profits of the oil sheiks and cartels would make life easier for those that labour under their thumbs.

They love us, they really love us!

George Bush gushed over his "relationship" with Canada in an interview leading up to the Cancun tri-lateral Mexico-US-Canada meetings:

I will do my very best to find common ground and, through my relationship with the prime minister, convince the people of Canada that we genuinely care about our friends and neighbours to the north and will work to resolve different issues in an above-board way that is mutually beneficial.

Scotty Greenwood, a grown man who goes by the name "Scotty" and executive director of the Canadian American Business Council, suggests that "(y)ou've got to suspend cynicism and take him at his word." The problem to now, Scotty says, is "(h)e (Bush) just needed a counterpart he could trust. There wasn't much ground for interaction before."

In short, you wanna deal with a right-wing US government, and lets face it, we're going to have to for at least a couple of more electoral cycles, you're gonna have to have a like-minded Canadian government. Or, so the business community would like us to believe.

But maybe, just maybe, we could elect adults that can disagree with the Americans with enough self-confidence that they don't put our national interests at risk by childish taunts and public displays of stupidity.

Harper wants our input? Yeah, right.

In a stump-like speech yesterday, Stephen Harper apparently urged Canadians to "bug MPs for change", or so you would think from the headline in the linked Star article, or from some of the right-wing bloggers that didn't actually read what he said (like this guy). Let's take a look at what Harper-the-communicator actually said:
"We're going to need the active support and involvement of Canadians, our supporters and all Canadians right across this country," said Harper, reading from teleprompters.
Sor far we've got him asking for people to root for him and his friends; that's nice, we all want to know that we're loved. But here's the one that seems to fool people, notice the wording...
"We're going to need all of them writing, e-mailing, faxing and telephoning
their MPs to tell them to get on with the plan."
See? I emphasised it with italics, but I bet on the teleprompter it had capitals. It looks like he's asking people for their ideas, and that's what the Toronto Star and the bloggers are breathlessly reporting, but he's not; he's asking people to tell their MP's to get on with the plan. He's just telling us to get in line.

It is possible that this is just a semantic game, however I, and many fellow bloggers are seeing a troubling pattern emerging. We see Harper telling his own people to shut their mouths (until he gives them something to say) and then telling us that he has the right to have secret Cabinet meetings if he desires, with or without reporters present. With this in mind, we should be wary every time he spouts off like he wants input from the us - he doesn't.

Accountability: the act of splitting hairs

The Globe and Mail reports today that two former Conservative staffers have quit their jobs working for cabinet ministers to take lobbyist roles in private firms. The Conservative reaction is to note that they were parliamentary not ministerial aides, and they broke no rules.

What troubles me most is the incestuous back-and-forth between lobbying firms and the federal government. Tara Baran, former legislative assistant to Justice Minuster Vic Toews quit her position when he became minister and now is with Strategy Corp., and is of course lobbying the Justice Department among others. Sandra Buckler, formerly of Fleishman-Hillard is now Stephen Harper's (snicker) communications director. Kevin Macintosh, who just left Rob Nicholson's office, is now at Fleishman-Hillard.

This little shell game between government and the lobby industry has gone on for years, of course - the Liberals were masters. However, the Tories brought the government down on accountability issues and came to office wearing the white hat and riding the horse called Account-a-Billy, and it looks like they are going to play the same old game.

Except, of course, they are going to do a far better job of keeping lips shut tight about it.

"Communications director" - for a dry fucker, Harper sure can be funny sometimes.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Words for Rachel Corrie, with thanks to Billy Bragg

Two weeks ago, March 16, marked the third anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie, a young American woman who lost her life beneath an Israeli bulldozer trying to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian home. I never met her, never volunteered overseas, hell, never ever really volunteered for anything inconvenient, so the fact that her story touches me has nothing to do with any similarities between us, perceived or real. Perhaps it is simply the starkness of our differences that makes her story resonate.

Whatever the reason, I remember reading about her death three years ago, only a few months after the birth of my second beautiful daughter and in retrospect, the tears I shed are surely tied to both events.

I remember poring over article after article as the reports of her death came in, and then in the days following, reading the emails she wrote home and to friends telling them, now us, why she was doing what she was doing. And then I remember seeing the photographs taken of her death beneath a Catepillar tractor driven by an Israeli soldier. Was it the boldness of her sacrifice that got me, the power of its symbolism, or simply morbid curiousity of such a public death? All three, I suppose, in their own way.

Was her death heroic, stupid or just a death? She certainly gave her life freely for others, but being heroic, at least to me, implies giving up life fully aware that you are doing so, and I'm not as sure about this. Did she really, honestly, even as she was climbing on top of the debris pile in front of the bulldozer, think that her life was in danger? Or, being only 23 and young enough to maybe not have internalized the reality of death, was she still immortal? Did she see enough in her few short years to know how short they were indeed? Is the concept of heroism so hackneyed and brutalized by misuse and politics that it has lost any real meaning, or indeed, did it ever really have one? Can a single word ever encapsulate something so muddy and real and pure as a person's death? Should it?

Were her last thoughts ones of confusion? Indignation? Anger? Acceptance?

Rachel Corrie has not been forgotten, not by me and not by others with a whole lot more talent.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Let's See Limbaugh Question His Manliness...

An interesting interview with Eric Haney, a retired Command Sergeant Major with the U.S. Army, and a founding member of 'Delta Force' the elite counter-terrorism unit. Eric on Iraq:
Utter debacle. But it had to be from the very first. The reasons were wrong. The reasons of this administration for taking this nation to war were not what they stated. (Army Gen.) Tommy Franks was brow-beaten and ... pursued warfare that he knew strategically was wrong in the long term. That's why he retired immediately afterward. His own staff could tell him what was going to happen afterward.

We have fomented civil war in Iraq. We have probably fomented internecine war in the Muslim world between the Shias and the Sunnis, and I think Bush may well have started the third world war, all for their own personal policies.

"It's too dangerous for us to go in there alone"

- Iraqi Army commander, Tassin Tawfik on why Iraqi troops were waiting for American support before recovering 30 beheaded bodies found in Baghdad.

Still more doubleplusungood news for the optimistic Right to digest. So what is it that you guys are doing to keep those blue sky smiles? Condi, is it the early morning workouts? Dick, is it shooting old men? George - it's the mountain biking, isn't it? Adam - it's the sight of your name in other blogs, isn't it?

Seriously, whatever it is that you guys have been smoking or drinking, I want it. I want lots of it. I think we could even use it to power cars and stuff. Hell, that shit must be so strong you could power rocks with it.

Oh, wait, I know what it is...


The more things change...



... the more they stay the same.

Harper and Ambrose have to make up their minds

Or, rather, Harper has to make up his mind and hers as to what it is they plan to do about Kyoto. As this summary article points out, the time to act on all issues related to global warming is now. It is well known that Conservatives and their NCC backers are no fans of the Kyoto Protocol because it means taking the economy in a fundamentally different direction than they have been planning. Unfortunately, their plans are decidedly Victorian in nature, and this is a modern problem.

As for the Liberal Party, you smug Liberal bastards have to own up to the fact that in twelve years of power you signed up for international agreements like Kyoto with no intention of ever doing anything to own up to them. We lag behind the United States on CO2 emissions thanks in part to the gutless "money-first" policies of the Liberal government. At least the United States has had the honour to come out and say "we disagree with this and won't sign it", rather than signing it and slinking away to quietly ignore it.

Unless your outrage over Harper's statements on Kyoto are prefaced with a "we're sorry", save your breath.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Note on the Nature of Reality

Dear (some) Americans:
As expected, in response to criticism from Russia and China over the Iraq war, Condi Rice has dropped the latest in a number of shoes: The Russians sold them out.

Ah, the comforting repetition of pattern: criticism/discrediting. Not only are critics of the war inside America unpatriotic, but critics outside the country can't be trusted either. Dance steps of this precision to obscure and discredit opposition haven't been seen since the days of ol' Doc Goebbels, and he had a club foot.

Listen, if there's anyone out there who by now hasn't realized what liars the Bush administration are...Please do your best not to reproduce, ok? I have no desire to be overrun by drooling morons, regardless of your Christian duty to lay on top of your wife and rub up and down and make babies in the name of the red white and blue.

A few facts. And they are facts, no matter how many RPMs of spin folks in the ass pocket of the VP have imparted:

The war was started under false pretenses. Osama didn't even send Xmas cards to Saddam, OK? You are victims of weapons of mass distraction.

Your President and his puppeteers have broken the law, and violated some of your most sacred American human rights: the right to privacy, and the right to a fair trial. If your Constitution defines you, then you must punish the men who wipe their asses with it.

It's pronounced NU-Clee-er. I can't stress this enough. Doesn't it bother you that the man with his chocolate-stained fingers on the BUTTON can't pronounce the names of the 'little critters what make it go boom'?

Evolution is a fact, no matter how much you don't want to acknowledge it. That Book you have so much faith in was written by committee hundreds of years after the events within. And, I'm thinking the guys that wrote it were high and laughing their asses off.

I just wanted to get that out of the way. Listen, I have no doubt that a comforting illusion (or twelve) makes you feel good about yourselves. I've rationalized a few things in my life, most of them involving tequila, a mule, and chocolate sprinkles. But I digress...

The thing is: You see...no, I mean ACTUALLY SEE things happening that are wrong no matter what interpretation is given to them, and yet you ignore it. You accept the simplistic, canned answer rather than getting out of your XBox-dulled, Prozac and Viagra cocktail-addled fog and actually asking the question: are you seriously expecting us to believe this?

It truly defies all logic.

Finally, consider this: the U.S. government has systematically changed the names of all the things and concepts that are undesirable, in their view. For example, civilian casualties are now collateral damage. This administration has created and reinforced their own specialized discourse that automatically condemns anything that falls outside of their control or is negative for them. By limiting the available forms of discourse, they have created an atmosphere in which criticism is limited, because opponents to disagreeable policies no longer have language available to them to allow them to enter into reasoned arguments - the world has been categorized into good/evil, black/white, us/them. They have stolen your language out from under you, so it will soon not be possible to think contrary thoughts, as you will no longer have words for the concepts you wish to express.

Wecome to INGSOC, a few years later than expected. We have always been at war with Eurasia, and the chocolate ration has been raised to twelve grams a week. Welcome to the Fox News Two Minutes' Hate. Long live Big Brother!

Doubleplusungood.

I, too, am sick of all of the bad news about Iraq...

Adam Daifallah and the "optimistic" Right have been simpering of late about the lack of coverage of good news of all of the lovely things happening in Iraq. And to back up his assertions, Daifallah uses reports from notably honest Ahmed Chalabi. He was probably reading from the Dick Cheney and George Bush songbook as well, as they have trotted out the new mantra that the invasion war establishment of a democracy is going fine, it's just the damnable reporters that keep showing the explosions because it's better TV.

CNN television earlier in the week played an interview with Lara Logan, a reporter working in Baghdad, who explained that it is hard to report on "good news" when they can't leave their hotels without armed guards and are asked by the embassy to not report on the construction of schools and whatnot because they are afraid that as soon as they are made public they too will be attacked. Go to this link and watch the video - there is some hope for CNN when they get people like this.

Granted, George and Dick live in the most gated of communities so the world will have to get pretty close to hell before they'll actually feel it, and Adam is right-wing cheerleader lawyer-in- training, so he'll be to tended like an old lady's garden, so reality to these guys is a bit different than it is at the pointy end of their policies. I don't expect them to make any sense or to feel any remorse, or ultimately to express any doubt. However I do expect us to challenge them at every turn, because, while not actively evil, they are short-sighted and greedy, and add real power to that mix and you've something as close to evil as I'd like to see.

What evidence did they expect?

So the Afghan court has dismissed the case of Abdul Rahman on grounds that they "do not have enough evidence to prosecute.
Naturally, this raises the question exactly what evidence they would have found sufficient? I mean, didn't he publicly state his conversion?

I mean, it's not like he converted to Judaism, in which case they would have found medical evidence had they only looked underneath his flipper snappers.

In all likelihood this is just a way for the Afghan government to try to pry its way out of a tight corner, but I'm not sure it is over yet.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Charity Begins at Home

Or at least it does for former First Lady Barbara Bush - who recently donated to the Katrina Relief Fund, with the stipulation that the money has to go to a software company run by her son Neil.

Now, there's nothing wrong with Mrs. Bush trying to help out her son - that's the sort of thing that parents do all the time. I'm sure every reader out there has gotten a bit of aid from their folks at one time or another - of course, they didn't get tax breaks for it.

Udate: Neil isn't the only family member to benefit from tragedy, as the LA Times report George's uncle William is in the process of raking in $2.7 million from the sale of a company that profited from the war in Iraq. Does anyone else think the Marie Antoinette-ization of America is coming along nicely?

A furry question for any Bluenosers out there

Where does one go in the Halifax area to buy a pair of seal mittens? Do you just go to the places that sell fur coats or do you go somewhere else?

The reason I ask is that I think I'll buy myself a pair when these year's "crop" hits market. And if the price is right, I'll buy some for friends, too.

I'll post pictures when I get them.

Friday, March 24, 2006

A lesson in Iraqi accounting


Thirty years of Sadaam Hussein reign.
+
Twelve years under UN sanctions.
+
Pounded by Shock and Awe (tm).
+
Three years of occupation and increasing insurgent attacks.
=
Fuck 'em, rebuilding is too expensive.
-- Daniel Speckhard, the head of the US Iraqi Reconstruction Management Office

Just a little google fun...

Type unprincipled bastard into google and hit "I'm feeling lucky".

John Turner Ruins Otherwise Dignified Event

John Turner shocked attendees at a Liberal gathering in Toronto by going on a headbutting spree - here we see Shiela Copps on the receiving end of a vicious attack by Turner.
Many of those attending the gathering were unaware of what was happening, but reported later hearing sounds like "hollow coconuts being knocked together - you know, like the Monty Python movie."
No charges have been laid, as it was impossible to find anyone who cared, inside or outside the Liberal Party.

(Photo from Toronto Star)

Fantastic Movie Link from a Fellow Blogger

With gratitude to 1337haxOr, I checked out this film on Google Video - very scary, and very worth watching!
Unbelievably detailed and very thought-provoking. It clocks in at about an hour and 20 minutes, but once you start watching, it's nearly impossible to stop.
Thanks and bravo for finding this!

Encore performance?

Indonesia has officially withdrawn its diplomats from Australia in protest of the Aussies' granting asylum to some 42 Indonesian men, women and children fleeing alleged persecution in the province of Papua.
Indonesia firmly denies that persecution is occurring - despite the fact that an independence movement has been gaining momentum there recently. As we know, Indonesia's government has not been known to react with tolerance to desires for independence - Anyone else remember East Timor?
The denials sound hollow, the theatrical protests specifically engineered to satisfy the desire not to annoy the U.S., a long-time ally. If the situation is not what it seems, why has the government not allowed journalists into the area for quite some time? Why has it felt the need to send in the notorious Indonesian Police Mobile Brigade, a model of a brutally repressive goon squad?
Recently, thousands of students were injured in clashes with police. The injured were forced to flee into the mountains to fend for themselves, or die trying.
Is is because they are a U.S. ally that we don't hear about this?
Maybe Sir Paul and the Mrs. could see their way clear to hug a few Indonesians sometime soon. Hopefully very soon.

The Dark Side of the Celebrity Activist

As a followup to Flash's most excellent post on Brigitte Bardot's stand against the seal hunt, I've found this informative piece on Ms. Bardot, pointing out the downside of getting a celebrity to push your cause - sometimes, they're not very nice people. As the piece points out, not quite two years ago, Bardot was fined in a Paris court for inciting racial hatred, stemming from her 2003 book 'A Scream in the Silence' in which she attacked Muslims, inter-racial marriage, women in government, and homosexuals. In fact, Bardot's been fined 4 times since 1997 for inciting racial discord. And her politics ain't too palatable either - she's a longtime supporter of Maurice Le Pen's right-wing anti-immigrant National Front party, in fact her husband was a Party executive at the time. In short, Bardot may love animals, but she's not too crazy about human beings - in fact, maybe that's why she's so fond of the seal pups - after all, they're white.

Now, there may well be people reading this who are opposed to the seal hunt - good for you - I may disagree with you, but it's your opinion and you have a right to hold it. All I ask is that it be an informed opinion - that you research, that you dig, that you not take the word of the celebrite du jour on the facts, that you not take the word of anyone at face value. And if you're truly opposed to it - ask yourself "Is this the person I want speaking for me?" If not, I suggest you email Paul Watson and demand that he do a little more research on his spokespeople.

Madeline Albright, oh how I miss you, you stout little brainiac

Madeline Albright writes an excellent opinion piece in today's LA Times that you should read. In it she explains that the US government has made a big mistake in breaking the world up into "good" and "evil", because it does not aknowledge the reality of its complexity and leads to undesired outcomes.

I will give one example from the article, because I think you should go read it.

By lumping Saddam Hussein, Al Quaeda, and Iran's current leadership into the "evil" group, decision-makers are denied the information that bin Laden and Hussein didn't get along with Hussein, who in turn persecuted Sunni and Shia, and in fact fought a brutal war against Iran in the 1980's. And now the Americans have propped up an Iran-friendly government, because the Iraqi elections have made a "good" government; it's idiotic.

Her three pieces of (unrequested) advice to Bush:

The first is to understand that although we all want to "end tyranny in this world," that is a fantasy unless we begin to solve hard problems.

...

Second, the Bush administration should disavow any plan for regime change in Iran - not because the regime should not be changed but because U.S. endorsement of that goal only makes it less likely.

...

Third, the administration must stop playing solitaire while Middle East and Persian Gulf leaders play poker.


Naturally, the subtlety (cough) of her arguments are going to blow right on past the right-wing zealots that take comfort in the Biblical good vs. evil myth that the Bushites have created. It is easier to sleep at night in the secure knowledge that you are right and they are wrong (we should go ask Adam Daifallah that question), however the reality of the world is far more complicated and disconcerting.

As an example of one such response, I point you toward the barely-coherent babblings of the Strong Conservative for no other reason than I apparently think you don't deserve to start your weekend without a dollop of suffering first. You see, Jonathan reads in her opinion:
Its as though she believes that since the problem has not been solved in the 3 years since the invasion of Iraq and the 5 years since 9-11, we should just plain give up.

This would imply that she's been a backer of Bush's doctrine for a while, but has now changed her mind. Ummm, no.

And he also misinterprets her warning about planning for regime change in Iran as being caving in on "our own values and interests", even though she explicitly stated that the goal was not the problem, rather US endorsement of it publicly is. Apparently he can't even read the news enough to know that this is 100% true. Doesn't he understand that the final nail in the coffin of the moderates leading up to the Palestinian elections was American support?

Sheesh.

[Edit: I forgot to note that the Strong Conservative article was titled "Albright Portrays the Pessimism of the Left". Apparently the Left's pessimism is bad because it aknowledges the complexity of the world and the difficulty of doing things. Contrast this with the optmism of the Right, which blindly runs us into walls because it allows us to take actions without understanding the risks and likelihood of failure in advance. I'm starting to see it more clearly now - Pessimism = Realism; Optimism = "we create our own reality". Seriously, which one of these viewpoints is appropriate for YMCA summer camp and which for the leader of your country?]

Stalemate continues on Iran

Reuters reports this morning that the US government has initiated a round of communications between all of the non-Iranians involved in the Iran nuclear weapons debate. It is part of an effort to "produce a unified message", a task made more challenging by yesterday's announcement of agreement between Russia and China. A multi-national agreement on behalf of the west is necessary partly because the American government does not have the diplomatic power it could have, owing to the fact that it just signed deals for the transfer of nuclear technology to India, a country that has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

So far, the stalemate continues, with Russia and China still holding out on signing their draft statement to the UN. American Ambassador (snicker) John Bolton snottily suggested:
We're waiting for the outcome of the conversations at higher pay grades
Word up, John; snide remarks about foreign ambassadors ain't gonna win any friends. Dick.

To add irony to peevishness, Condoleezza Rice, just after the third anniversary of a war started by her government based on lies errors in intelligence, suggested there was an:

an erosion of confidence in Iran "because they lied to the IAEA for 18 years
All non-Iranian nations in this "negotiation" agree that Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear power, however they do not want Iran to pursue uranium enrichment on its own soil for fear that at least some of the product, which will be weapons-grade, will be diverted for military use. The proposal to have enrichment occur in Russia has been adopted, however the Russian and Chinese governments want to have punitive measures withdrawn from the document:

"The draft includes points that effectively lay the groundwork for sanctions against Iran," (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday. "We will hardly be able to support this version."

The current stalemate has been created in part by the attempt to craft a UN Security Council resolution to put pressure on Iran. The article concludes:
Britain and France have considered dropping the idea of a council statement, which requires agreement by all 15 members. Instead they would turn the statement into a resolution, which needs nine favorable votes and no veto, and dare Russia and China to vote "no."
This whole thing is going to get real interesting in the coming days.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Truly is it Sad

A party in crisis - conflicting internal struggles, no clear vision, and no hope of decisive leadership in the upcoming elections. What, you thought I was talking about the Democrats? No man, I'm talking about the Republicans! Personally, I think the Dems should sue - they came up with 'No Ideas' first!

If There Was Ever Any Doubt That The Internet is a Dark and Dangerous Place

Let it be forever dispelled by the news that Joan Rivers has an ad on the online dating site match.com. Given a choice, I think chatting with a 35 year old man pretending to be a teenage girl would be a hell of a lot less creepy - certainly less strident.
Update: I have removed the photo of Joan Rivers I originally had accompanying this post - it was drawing complaints, and I decided that subjecting the Gentle Readers of this blog to such a sight with their morning coffee was too cruel

The South Shall Rise Again

Yeah - just not their SAT scores. This article from the Arkansas Times shows how evolution is slowly and systematically being forced out of the classroom - even to the point where teachers are not permitted to use the terms 'natural selection' or, of course, the 'e-word'. Best quote:
But Bob’s personal issue was more specific, and the prohibition more insidious. In his words, “I am instructed NOT to use hard numbers when telling kids how old rocks are. I am supposed to say that these rocks are VERY VERY OLD ... but I am NOT to say that these rocks are thought to be about 300 million years old.”
You know, if this keeps up, the Republicans are going to have to rethink their stand on illegal immigration - at this rate it's the only hope the Americans are ever going to have of getting anyone with a tech education.

Michael Smith, dog torturer...

will apparently be available to perform his own special brand of dog tricks at birthday parties, bar mitzvah's, and weddings in six months. I hear he does some special stuff for stags, too; check him out.

Well done, American military "justice" system. You have proven to the Iraqi people the relative worth of life. You have proven to the Iraqi people that they will be tortured and their torturers will walk away essentially scot free.

Is anyone in this government thinking? I mean, haven't you heard that you're supposed to be trying to "win the hearts and minds"?

Well done, indeed.

President Russ Feingold?

If you are American and think that sounds ridiculous, you must be a Democrat. The Republicans apparently have realized that Feingold might be that rarest of hybrids - a Democrat with balls and they are worried that he might pick up some legitimacy after his attempt to censure Bush. For proof, check out the attack ad over at www.gop.com (click on "Listen to the Latest Radio Ad"). They've brought out the big guns. Okay, well, gun - "911".

I am sure that the Necropublicans would far rather face someone like Hillary at the ballotbox, and I'm equally sure that the DLC would prefer they did, too.

Just for the record, I'm still guaranteeing a Democrat loss in '08, but if they happen to go with someone like Feingold, I might change my mind.

Surprise! Michelle Malkin doesn't get it

Everywhere today in blogosphere and the MSM is news of the rescue or release (see below) of the Christian Peacemakers from their captivity in Bagdhad. Because of the ubiquity of coverage, I had not planned to post on the topic - you have enough out there to read without wading through another "I'm so happy they're safe" blog post.

Yes, I decided that unless someone said something really, really stupid, I was going to remain silent and just let everyone get on with their day. But on a planet that includes the likes of Michelle Malkin, resting until someone says something stupid gives you no rest at all.

In a post today she takes umbrage ("For crying out loud" no less!) with the fact that the Christian Peacemakers in their announcement of the freeing of the hostages used the term "released" and not "rescued". Further adding to her temperature is the fact that the CPs did not thank the rescuers and in fact said:

Harmeet, Jim and Norman and Tom were in Iraq to learn of the struggles facing the people in that country. They went, motivated by a passion for justice and peace to live out a nonviolent alternative in a nation wracked by armed conflict. They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers. We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.

Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. In the spirit of the prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance. We give thanks for the compassionate God who granted our friends courage and who sustained their spirits over the past months. We pray for strength and courage for ourselves so that, together, we can continue the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace.

I don't want to speak for the Peacemaker's organization, I'm not even Christian so why should I presume? but I will speak for the political nature of this statement in simple words so that morons like Malkin can understand. The Christian Peacemakers as an organization are fighting against war as a concept, not for the Iraqis nor for the US/British forces. That makes all soldiers, including those that rescued them their enemies. To summarize; the Iraqis that captured them - enemies, the British and American troops that rescued them, also enemies.

You might or might not subscribe to this philosophy, but there is no excuse aside from functional illiteracy or blinkered partisanship to not at least understand where they come from. If you read their entire response, you will see an example of real Christian love that seems utterly lacking in the Malkin/Necropublican world that could actually provide a bridge to real peace between not only the US and the Iraqi people but between the West and Islam.

Thank you, Christian Peacemakers, for keeping the spirit of non-violent resistance alive in the best tradition of Ghandi. And thank you Michelle Malkin for showing me that I need help along those very lines myself.

The Eternal Bleating of the Formerly Hot

Eugh. Brigitte Bardot is beginning to look like she's had all of the moisture sucked out of her - They need to label those packets of Silica Gel that say "Do Not Eat" with simpler instructions.

Again, we are confronted with the infinite wisdom of the celebrity. Part of the story that I saw on television showed Bardot (when she was obviously more mobile) cuddling up to a baby seal. Which, when you think about it, makes the mommy seal less likely to come back and care for her young - adult seals cannot abide the scent of outdated French perfume. So, congrats, B., you have effectively murdered a baby seal. Same goes for Mrs. Beatle, ...sorry, Wing, ...oops, no, McCartney.

Snuggling up to the baby seals is bad. Simple as that. And, its disingenuous - the hunting of white coated seals has been illegal for some time. They are not at risk, but the adults aren't as photogenic. The seal hunt is regulated to eliminate, as much as possible, the very activity that you are symbolically (and simplistically) protesting.

I don't watch Entertorture Tonight, or any of those type of programs. I don't care what Ben is sleeping with this week - it could be a koala, as long as it's called Jennifer - and I absolutely do not care what celebrities have to say about politics, or anything else for that matter.

I respect my friends (Some of the the best and brightest ones post here) that have reasoned opinions, and observe the world around them with a critical eye. Everytime I see a celebrity advocating for a cause, it brings the mind a carnival barker: "Step right up, folks, hear the opinions of famous people! They're more important than you! And while you're at it, see their newest movie/buy the CD/covet the lifestyle!"

They are not more important than us. They do a job. Some of them do it well, and I respect that. And, have you noticed that those who do their jobs well (DO, present tense, this is very important) are those who quietly support good causes, and don't bleat incessantly about the cause du jour?

They are not there to proseletyze, they (actors, at least) are there to pretend to be someone else.
Can some of you pretend to be someone who shuts the fuck up about things you don't know anything about? Please?

...Because only a loony would...

So the Afghan government is worried about the mental state of Abdul Rahman, the 41-year old man who faces the death penalty for converting to Christianity? It's nice to know they're concerned about something related to him, since they're trying to kill him and all.

I can picture the psychological profile now..

Subject thinks invisible man who created the universe is watching him.

Subject believes he is in some way invincible, as he claims he will live on in some form after he dies (that is, after we kill him).

Subject believes winged former humans are interfering in human affairs.

Subject believes there is a book that holds all the answers of life, the universe and everything, but claims it was not written by Douglas Adams.

I'm not quite sure what the right answer is here, I'm just somewhat astounded that they seem concerned with his well being, when he's being charged with doing what to him seemed right (which proves he's insane), and would supposedly give him peace of mind. As a result of following his conscience, or whatever thing you follow to make decisions like that, he faces death.

And, lo, somewhere, Jesus saith: "Wow, deja vu."

I am a staunch cultural relativist, that is, I believe that every culture, no matter how much it differs from the Right Is Might Is White ideal, has its own value for its members. I am not trying to judge this using standards that are inappropriate, I am just confused. I am confused at the rationale, or at least the flexible and perhaps inconsistent application of a moral standard that would be a prerequisite in permitting- nay, promoting- the death of someone who has the audacity to cancel his subscription to the Muslim faith and replace it with Christianity, and yet disallowing that death if the subject has a mental illness.

It's news stories like this that promote misunderstanding and unfounded rumour about the Muslim faith. And maybe, buried underneath the 'human interest', that's the real point.

A triangular chess board

For anyone thinking that the dispute over Iranian nuclear weapons was an issue between two sides - Iran and the rest of the world, the agreement announced today that the Chinese and Russian governments are "in accord" in their stand on the issue should be an eye opener.

The announcement, which comes after a two-day visit of Vladimir Putin to Beijing, states that China and Russia "agreed the Iran nuclear issue should be resolved through diplomatic means" and further says "all the related parties should display flexibility and patience". In addition, both countries would "delete large sections of the draft statement the Security Council has been studying for nearly two weeks" as they fear that Security Council involvement could too easily lead to punitive measures, which they view as unhelpful to the situation.

The statement stands in stark contrast to sabre-rattling this week from the US government about preemptive strike policy and reputed links of Iran to the Iraqi unsurgency. While these comments were widely understood as an announcement to the American public and the world that the administration was seriously considering military options in Iran, it is likely that they were meant to show a firm face to the Iranian government and strengthen the administration's support at home, which has been slipping in recent months.

Today's Chinese and Russian joint announcement indicates that "the rest of the world" is divided on exactly how to handle Iran. The Chinese are far more reliant on Mid-East oil that the Americans and so are understandably more reluctant to back a military solution to the problem. At best, this opens the possibility for greater creativity in negotiations - sort of a good negotiator/bad negotiator scenario. However, it could lead to more serious squabbling between the Americans and Chinese, which will not be helpfult with the North Korean issue likely to arise in the not-too-distant future.

In any case, this announcement appears to make a unilateral American attack on Iran less likely, at least in the near-term, and for what it's worth, the Bush Administration now has to share the leading role with Russia and China in decisions on the matter.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

This is Your Brain on Creationism

From the South Carolina Greenville News online edition I quote:
The theory of evolution does not and cannot explain so much about the universe that we know. For instance, when and how did water evolve? How does it happen that gravity can hold us to the Earth, and at the same time allow us to step up without any trouble? How did it happen that the Earth is spinning at the exact rate that keeps us from feeling that movement?
There is nothing I can say to this - really, I am speechless.

United Gulf Development

To no one's surprise, Halifax City Council has voted to approve the United Gulf Developments twin tower complex on the Halifax waterfront. Unsurprisingly, the councillors were reluctant to actually suggest using the municiple planning strategy to wipe their ass, instead they opted for meaningless motherhood statements like:
"I certainly respect heritage, I recognize the need to hold on to heritage and keep a grasp on our past but I think that we do need to move forward," Coun. Brad Johns (Middle and Upper Sackville-Lucasville) said of opponents’ arguments that the buildings won’t fit in with historic structures in the downtown district.
No, Brad, I don't believe you do recognize the need and I don't approve of what you and this council mean by "moving forward", which appears to be twofold:
  • turn Dartmouth into a strip mall at the end of the highway so it can be a little more like romantic Moncton
  • and toss up a few skyscrapers to suck out the remaining tenants from the downtown historic buildings so they can be torn down in turn

The council decision may yet be overturned by the Utility and Review Board.

OPNIF I: Partisan hackery

I am not against political parties, hell this blog is a member of the Dippers, so I have in some way declared some loyalty to the NDP. And I've even mentioned casting a ballot their way in the odd conversation. However, the overtly partisan non-issue foolishness (OPNIF) of the truly partisan bothers me. It bothers me because it issues from a mind that has actually closed to certain ideas, while expending all of its effort to promote its own; and that's bad.

This morning I noticed Stephen Taylor's (I know, I know, why bother?) post about Celine Hervieux-Payette's letter to the huffy seal-loving Minnisota non-tourist last week. Posting something like "what on earth were you thinking?" is perfectly fine, but to write "Does Senator Hervieux-Payette speak for the Liberal Party of Canada?" three days after Bill Graham said that her comments "reflect her personal opinions and not those of the Liberal Party of Canada" is misleading and foolish.

Of course the blogospere, inlcuding this little orange-tinted corner, is full of rhetoric, opinions and suppositions. But let's at least try to get the facts straight first.

Chicken Noodle News

It looks like the American media is treating the conviction of Sgt. Michael Smith for using guard dogs to terrify prisoners at Abu Ghraib as a human-interest story on how hard this has been on the poor soldier's family. Fully two-thirds of the linked article is devoted to the fact that he lost a brother earlier this year to a heart attack, and that his father and sister-in-law are sad.

Here we have a man convicted of making people shit themselves in fear, including at least two children, and apparently his sister-in-law is sad. That's some hard-hitting reporting - well done CNN!

I don't know what he was doing there..

But Doug was apparently surfing the Rush Limbaugh website, of all places, and discovered this little gem. Yes, you nutless left-wingers apparently jealous of George Bush's manliness.

I have to admit to this being a bit of an eye-opener for me. I've never listened to Rush Limbaugh and until Doug pointed me to the website the only contact I have had with him is reading about him in the media. So to actually click on this site and see just how much of a foolish, self-absorbed blowhard he really is actually shocked me. From the picture of the suited-git with the smoking brown penis in hand to the link to the podcast titled "Listen to Rush Conduct Broadcast Excellence" to the repeated references in the script and podcast to how prescient he is...

It's quite a testament to the attitude of the American Right that this guy has an audience.

Into Each Life, A Little Rain Must Fall

Or if you're the Liberal Party, a Golden Shower. Yes, Ashley MacIsaac's announced he's running for the Liberal leadership. Actually, he's a perfect fit - he's been living a Liberal lifestyle for years - Liberal drinking, Liberal drug use, Liberal sexual practices. And who better to speak to Canada's minorities than the man who insulted them all at a New Year's Eve concert several years ago? Seriously, though, at least, unlike Paul Martin, we know Ashley's got cojones grande - we've all seen them on Conan O'Brian...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Oh, They're Committed.

Yes, the U.S. Government is truly committed to hunting down terrorism in their fair country. No expense will be spared to make sure their brave government agents get the tools they need to carry out this vital mission - unless of course, you're an FBI agent and you want an email account - cause you know, then we're talking about actual money. But of course, the U.S. Government has many important things to spend their money on - like $7.5 million to study "psychic" teleportation.

This just in...

George Bush is optimistic that the US will prevail in Iraq!

After ranting yesterday about Adam Daifallah (quick, buy your Neocon Spectral Colonics (TM) at these fine locations) and the lack of contact the neocons have with the real world, this was just too much for me to read.

Naturally, like me, Adam has the benefit of being able to complain about things without responsibility for them, not being involved; but poor George can't say "things aren't going well because we screwed up early on", because, well George has a problem admitting he was wrong about stuff. And when he does admit things it's in that evasive "it's okay because we believed there were weapons of mass destruction" kind of way, because really what's important to people that fuck up is not what they did, or the effects of what they did, but what they believed in as they fucked up.

("Sorry about murdering your family, ma'am, but we really thought they were terrorists. We're going to have an investigation to see whether the soldiers believed the wrong things when they pulled the trigger, don't you worry.")

So poor George is left to stand there, emitting positive energy in an effort to either exhort a positive outcome from thin air or at least to stave off electoral defeat by appealing to those weak-minded enough to be assuaged by bleatings of a fraud. Like Adam and Ahmad.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Adam Daifallah - three years older and wiser, well, three years older

So what is a self-respecting neocon to do after watching the American army get stuck for three years in a newly-created failed state? What can you say after so baldly lying your way into a war that other potential allies stand to the side and watch you twist as everything goes to hell? What do you say to yourself that allows you to sleep at night, knowing that people (mostly poorer than you) are out there killing and dying under your orders?

It takes a special kind of person to be able to stare down all of that reality and brush it off like so much biscotti on the sleeve of his Armani. But there are those that are big enough (and thank God!) to do just that - and Adam Daifallah is one such man. Men of such great-heartedness and large-mindedness can see through all of this as the mirage that it is. Would you like to know how he and others like him can do this?

By not admitting that they were ever wrong to begin with: the war was right, but mistakes were made.

Yes, that's right, Paul Bremer and his combat boots fucked up, and fucked up hard. Oh, you were so close, weren't you Adam? You could almost smell the victory before L. Paul handed it away by allowing an insurgency to be born. I mean, who could have possibly known that Saddam Hussein held those disparate ethnic groups together by force and tyranny? And who could have possible foreseen what would happen when that force was released?

Actually lots of people, but it took a special ability (or superpower?) that you and many of the neocons did not have - they didn't have their heads shoved up their ass. These people spent their time reading history and actually looking at the world situation while you spent yours staring dully through the Neocon Spectral Colonics (TM) of your own ideology; fantasizing whatever it is that you guys fantasize about. I'm not going there.

"We create our own reality". Yeah, heh.

It turns out that us peaceniks, not you neocons, were the adults in the room, and you guys were the optimistic dreamers. Weird, eh - the war turned out to be just a sick manifestation of your twisted optimism. That glass, my friend, is half-empty, repeat after me and nobody gets hurt.

But that's not how you see it, is it Adam? No, going to war against the will of most of the thinking world against a country largely disarmed and crippled by a dozen years of trade sanctions, without a thought to the potential problems was not the problem; the problem was poor form, bad followthrough, a shank, a broken tee.

We weren't neocon enough, in short.

Well at least you can still take solace in the meaningless dribblings of Ahmad Chalabi. That's eerily circular if you ask me. But again thanks to the power of the Neocon Spectral Colonics (TM) you can conveniently forget that Ahmad Chalabi is completely full of shit. Gone are the lies about weapons of mass destruction (poof!) and the love that the Iraqi people would feel for their liberators (poof! poof!) that Rumsfeld used to pursue a war on the cheap. These things have conveniently disappeared from your view, so you can assuredly use him as your "man on the ground" in Iraq and indeed, you now see "a corner being turned".

And you guys call us idealists.

More info on the taxi-shooting in Kandahar

The linked Toronto Sun article is dated Friday, but I didn't see it until Barfly sent it to me this morning (thanks!). There are a lot of troubling details that, if true, are going to make the Canadian job of "winning hearts and minds" all the more difficult. These include:

  • a rickshaw with a maximum speed of 20 km/hr - not exactly "storming the gates"
  • a medic that didn't look at the wounded man for 15 minutes while he bled on the ground
  • a chest wound that didn't "look life-threatening"
  • a patrol that appears to have been parked about 15m from a blind corner
  • shots fired into a vehicle that contained seven civilians

Yes, it was dark, and yes the guys are jumpy; but mistakes like this just can't become commonplace.

There are those that might say the wife's request for $30,000 to buy a home and a shop for her oldest son is extortion, but really, is there any real alternative. For her or us?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Shubie Park, I hardly knew ye...

This is but one of the costs that Halifax, specifically Dartmouth, is paying so that a large part of the city can essentially be turned into a strip mall on the 118. Shubenacadie Park, for those that don't know the area, hugs the Shubenacadie canal system from Lake Charles to Lake MicMac. It is a popular area for joggers, walkers, paddlers, and apparently construction workers.

As part of the new "development", which will turn a huge swath of land from the lakes out to Burnside into a series of strip mall developments, the city has to provide an additional exit from the 118. And of course, land for this development comes from the park.

Here are a few shots I took today while out walking Guinness (my dog).

This first one shows the Multi-Use Trail sign with the construction sign on it. For some reason, I found this really funny.


Here's one of the gravel berm that edges the park now for hundreds of metres. Don't know about you, but it has kind of a permanent look to me.

And finally, here is where the multi-use trail is actually blocked off for the construction. Two parts of this image identify what the locals think of the disruption/destruction. The first is that the barrier is actually torn down and the second is the black fuzz-ball behind the rock in the middle of the path. That is Guinness lifting his leg on the rock they've helpfully dumped in the middle of the trail.

A light blogging weekend...

Hi all,

Sorry for the paucity of posty wonder this weekend. I note that Dan and Dave popped a couple of things up, but I have been completely AWOL. I've been spending the weekend doing stuff with my wife and kids; something that I've not done as much of since I took delivery of my laptop a couple of weeks ago, and something that I should start doing before contact has to be adjudicated by a lawyer. Or so my wife threatens ;)

I'll be back tomorrow - hope you're all having a good one.

Oh, and George, Dick, Condoleezza, Donald and Colin, you must all be very proud - your little baby is three today. Take lots of pictures, these are the good days; before you know it she'll be into your credit cards and driving on her own.

[Edit: I just noticed that the old babysitter says that baby seems to have learned to walk all on her own now. Wow, so soon! In no time she'll be all over the yard and even hopping the fence!]

Oh wait...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Call to Prayer

Given the news that there's going to be a 100 episode Star Wars television series, I'd like to ask the readers of this blog to join me in a prayer:
Oh, God, or Zarquon, or the Lords of Kobol, any deity from Xena or Hercules, or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster, please keep George Lucas from writing, directing, editing, producing, or heck, even watching the new Star Wars show. I have a hard enough time watching the original trilogy thanks to what he did, especially with the dialogue in Episode III. I want this to be good, I want it to be epic, and I want to love it as much as Babylon 5, Stargate, and Battlestar Galactica put together. So if you could find a way to make George take up macrame as his life's calling or something, that would be great. Amen.


That is, unlike you like the prospect of 5 seasons worth of Jar Jar Binks.

It's not every day...

...that someone gets told to "shut the hell up" by a Senator! And no, not the hockey-playing kind.

It's interesting that in the linked CBC article on the remarks today by Celine Hervieus-Payette, they felt the need to draw a comparison with Carolyn Parrish. I mean, what really can you do to a Senator? Especially when they're right?

Seal on!

Irony or Orwell... or both?

Stephen Hadley defends the preemptive force doctrine at the US Institute of Peace.

Nerf Politics!

So, if every piece of information intended for public consumption has to go through the PMO, the government should be just about ready to start leading the country by the time the next election hits.

Stephen Harper will soon start to make obsessive-compulsives say, "Wow, he's got a serious problem..."

So, your Cabinet is inexperienced. Is is possible they might actually bring new ideas to the table? Isn't that why you made them Cabinet ministers? I sincerely hope so.

There was a time when Canada was a radical new idea. That seems to have worked out pretty well. Don't pull on the reins too hard, Steve, or your cabinet will stop speaking altogether. To us or to you.

Your Bill is Past Due

The new federal Environment Minister, Rona Ambrose, stopped in Dartmouth (at the end of my street, actually!) to visit the Atlantic Storm Prediction Centre. Said Centre will soon, if things proceed as they have been, consist of a big picture window with some guy looking out of it. And maybe somebody with a bad knee who "feels in me leg" when bad weather's comin'.

That aside, I am troubled by the lack of discussion, probably due to this, on some environmental issues: Kyoto and the Sydney Tar Ponds. The latter is what I would like to discuss.

For nearly 100 years, steelmaking constituted the economic engine of Cape Breton Island. Under a variety of corporate names (DOSCO, SYSCO), the steel plant churned away for years, employing thousands of employees over the years, including entire families (such as my grandfather and 2 uncles). At one time, the plant produced fully half of the steel produced in Canada. The work was difficult and dangerous, but it helped these men provide for their families in an otherwise 'problematic' economy.

The problem with this inspiring picture is the complete lack of concern for the environment shown by the owners (primarily Crown corporations) over the plant's lifetime. The Tar Ponds, and the Coke Ovens site, were the results of the steelmaking process, areas where the toxic byproducts were dumped without any consideration for the homes nearby (which were built for the steelworkers) or for Sydney Harbour, which, because of the outflow from Muggah Creek, now has no edible life in it. Where at one time it was acceptable to catch and eat fish and lobsters from the harbour, now, unless you're suicidal, you just don't.

Admittedly, at the turn of the last century, the environment was not something, in most people's view, that warranted consideration. Indeed, it was a thing to be tamed and ultimately conquered, a view that represented the last vestiges of the Victorian need for conquest, metaphorical or real.

But now, when the promised $280 million dollars promised by the Federal government is coming due...nothing. No word on whether we should wait patiently for the direct deposit, or give them a little while longer 'cause they needed to get groceries, then the car crapped out on them, so they had to write a cheque, so they're a little short this month...

People are dying. The concentrations of PCBs and PAHs in the environment are creating long-term health problems, not just for the former workers, but for anyone who ever lived in proximity to the ground the plant stood on. (There is a very good history here, I highly recommend a visit.)

And, the government, though its unerring support of the plant over the years, and repeated denials of the long-term damage it created, are culpable. The fact that the debates have dragged on since the 1980's, despite numerous high-profile citizen protests, is unbelieveable. Let's see the Minister of the Environment wade out to the middle of the Tar Ponds (ignoring the razor-wire and the 'Human Health Hazard' signs), and see how many questions she can answer before her legs dissolve.

This is not to be taken lightly, despite my occasional lapses. If Stephen Harper wants to appear as though he is taking the government in a different direction, let's try a radically different one: Give them the money to make this cesspool, the worst toxic site outside Eastern Europe, disappear. Make Cape Breton a place where families can live safely, and maybe, just maybe, the Island will come back to life.

An Open Question

To all the bloggers who are calling for Bush's impeachment. Do you really want this guy put in charge?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

This is how blowback happens...

There is a discrepency between the Canadian military's account of the events leading to the death of Nasrat ali Hasan on Tuesday and that of the man's family. According to the family, with no indication whether they were at the scene of the incident or were reporting second-hand, there were no warning shots fired and no medical attention offered by the Canadians, both of which were specifically mentioned in the Canadian reports. He was apparently taken to an Afghan hospital, where he later died, and not to the Canadian facility because Canadian medics didn't seem to think the wound was "very serious". Oops.

Whichever story is true really hardly matters, because we know which one is now spreading through the population. I'm not sure what to say about this, except that it worries me. It is exactly this kind of incident that can make enemies where none were before.

Air assault in Iraq

The US today launched a large-scale air assault ("Operation Swarmer", don't you know!) into Samarra, north of Baghdad. The assault appears mainly to have used helicopters as transport, but there was also doubtlessly other air support provided, and the role of air power in Iraq is going to get more press in the coming months, I think.

The reason I say this is that I have been thinking recently a lot about how the Americans plan to make good on their promise to step down troop levels this year. No matter how I look at it, the only way that I can see this happening is by replacing the grunts on the ground with bombers and strike fighters in the air and let the Iraqi government forces essentially act as target callers for them. Unless, of course, the Americans are happy to just play hidey-hole in the Green Zone and let the rest of the country go to hell. (Which, some of you are saying is exactly what's happening, and you're right of course; but I'm trying to think from a Bush Administration standpoint and that means sometimes letting optimism override my eyes.)

That this can go bad is obvious - it is essentially the same strategy the US used in the latter years of the Vietnam war and it didn't work so well then. In fact, there are many ways that this can go very badly. An obvious one is if the Shi'a-dominated government is calling the shots, um, literally in this case, and decides to start getting a little heavy-handed with the Sunni and Kurd minorities, US air power might well be used as a weapon in what amounts to a civil war.

Tom Englehart in this article a few months ago discussed this very thing and suggested that the Americans are quietly (if you're not there when it actually happens) expanding the air war in Iraq and that this may well be the draw-down strategy they plan on using. (Quiet in that we don't know what's going on. Centcom reports indicate when missions are flown, but give very little detail, so it's hard for reporters to follow what's really happening when most of them are reporting from a safe country or from inside the Green Zone and only see the planes fly off and return. There are no embeds in the F-14's apparently.)

If what is happening on the ground in Iraq interests you, go read the Englehart article and it's attachment, and keep in touch with Juan Cole's blog - he's got the goods. And if there are any military-types out there that want to share there thoughts on the future of Iraq/US, um, relations, I'd love to hear from you!

Bush confirms committment to peaceful resolution of Iranian issue...

...by reaffirming the US Strike-First Policy, singling out Iran as just the kinda country they'd like to strike.

Impeachment or impalement?

Ready? Take a deep breathe and read.

Thanks, Fraser.

The Unholiest of Alliances

Is getting ready to take over your life, if you're American. Democrats Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Hillary Clinton of New York, and Dick Durbin of Illinois have persuaded a Senate committee to approve a sweeping study of the "impact of electronic media use" to be organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC because of their concern over violent video games.

OK, first off, - why is the CDC getting involved in this - don't they have something more important to do - like dealing with avian flu?

Secondly, if there was any possible question of Joe Lieberman's status as a Republican tail chaser, his two Republican sponsors for this bill were Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Sam Brownback of Kansas - Google either one of those names with 'Intelligent Design' to see where they stand for Truth and Science.

Thirdly, although this was passed to address video games - note what is actually said - 'impact of electronic media use' - that's TV, the Internet, Radio, Cell Phones - everything with a plug or a battery.

Finally, just so you know - I agree that there are video games that are unsuitable for children. Just as I agree that there are websites and TV Shows unsuitable for kids. I also feel that there should be institutions that work to keep children safe for these things. But, I happen to think these institutions should be Parents I happen to think a kids parents are the best judge of what their children should or shouldn't be exposed to, and I trust them to make the right decisions. If you're a Mother or Father, and you don't want your kid exposed to this sort of stuff - Bravo for you and good luck with that. But you shouldn't be getting the government to do your dirty work for you, and you've got no business telling me what I can watch - unlike you, my parents raised their children to think for themselves.

An Update on the U.N.

Further details from the New York Times on the formation of the new Human Rights Council, and another account, this time directly from the U.N.
The number of votes in favour of the Council reinforce my hope that this may actually go somewhere.
The U.S. opposition makes me even more supportive.

The branding of Iran

Yep, it looks like the Americans are breaking out the old playbook again and a tossing a 911 hail-mary over the head of rational debate on Iran. John Bolton told ABC News :
Just like September 11, only with nuclear weapons this time, that's the threat. I think that is the threat
While prone to fighting a battle with only one weapon, the Bush Administration has at least mastered the full-court press and we have Secratary of State Condoleezza Rice piously intoning:

(Iran) is the country that is the central banker for terrorism, whether that terrorism is in southern Iraq or in the Palestinian territories or in Lebanon. And in all of those cases, Iranian support for terrorism is retarding and in some cases, helping to arrest the growth of democratic and stable governments.
When pressed on this point, Rice declined to provide any direct evidence.

I emphasize the phrase "central banker for terrorism" because it sounds to me like the start of the branding of Iran - the packaging of the product for the American and international public. Not everyone remembers Iran from the revolution days, so it is a bit of an unknown commodity for us in the west. Therefore the first step for the Administration is to paint the picture of Iraq that they want everyone to see. Looking down at the pallet, there really are only two colours for this group; 9/11 and terrorism.

If you cast your memory back to 2002, it was Condi herself that did the very same thing "for" Iraq with her statement:
We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud

And what about the great cheerLeader? For his part, George has been accusing Iran of involvement in violence in Iraq and of supplying bombs to Iraqi insurgents, a claim which has been contradicted by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as being without any supporting evidence.

Like the "central banker for terrorism".

Like the "smoking gun".

We have seen all of this before.